Tikkun Olam, Repairing the World: How Queer Ideas Become Cultural Norms

January 19, 20, 21

The Graduate Theological Union

Berkeley, California

Tikkun Olam, “Repairing the World,” has become the mantra of liberal Judaism. Yet the term never appears in the Torah, and meant something altogether different when it was first introduced two thousand years ago. Who came up with it? And why? What did it originally mean? What “world” was it originally meant to repair?  What caused that world to be damaged in the first place? Where is God in the work of Tikkun Olam?

Come study with Rabbi Benay Lappe* and SVARA in this three-day intensive retreat course and learn the surprising, radical origins of tikkun olam. We will trace the concept from its first occurrences in rabbinic literature (in the Mishna and Gemara) to its appearance in the Zohar, the central Kabbalistic text. In our study of the tikkun olam texts, we will look at how fringe ideas become central Jewish principles, and ask the questions: What ideas do queer communities today have to offer the Jewish tradition? How does “queer torah” assert and insert itself into Jewish thinking and the Jewish Tradition? How can queer Jews bring their svara to the Tradition in these same ways today so that what is now simply “what queer people know” might be transformed into “queer Torah” and, eventually, like “tikkun olam,” foundational Jewish concepts?

This SVARA/GTU graduate course is geared toward activists, organizers, and seminarians, and will provide access to text and language that will enrich the work of community organizing and transformative education. Queer and Trans Jews, Jews of Color, Sephardic, Mizrachi and working class Jews encouraged to apply. Radical thinkers and queer theologians needed!

Like all of SVARA’s courses, this retreat course is open to students of all religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. All texts will be studied in their original Hebrew/Aramaic. Basic knowledge of the Hebrew alphabet (ability to sound out the letters) is required.

Daily Schedule:
Friday, Saturday, Sunday
9 – 10: Drop-in Tutorial
10 – 12: Chevruta (paired study)
12 – 1: Lunch
1 – 3: Shiur (class discussion)
3 – 4: One-on-one consultations with Rabbi Lappe

Dinner Friday evening and Saturday evening are included.

Evening Programs:

Thursday evening, January 18
Queers and the Conservative Movement
Presentation and discussion of the Conservative Movement’s recent decision on the halachic status of gays and lesbians, and the implications of queer Jews, with Rabbi Benay Lappe. Richard S. Dinner Boardroom, top floor, GTU Hewlett Library, 2400 Ridge Road, Berkeley. 7 pm. Free of charge. Open to the public.

Friday evening, January 19
Kabbalat Shabbat with Marcia Falk
Friday evening service with liturgical pioneer Marcia Falk, Kabbalat Shabbat in Poetry, Silence, and Song. Marcia Falk leads an innovative service from The Book of Blessings, her groundbreaking prayer book, written in poetic form, a contemplative re-creation of the traditional Friday evening service, in which the Sabbath is welcomed with poetry, song, and meditative silence. Easton Hall. 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley. 7 pm. Free of charge. Open to the public.

Saturday evening, January 20 
Havdalah and Kumzitz/Sing-along
Havdalah and sing-along with well-known singer/songwriter/composer and cantorial soloist Marsha Attie. Easton Hall, 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley. 7 pm. Free of charge. Open to the public.

Retreat Location: 
Easton Hall Conference Center, 2451 Ridge Road, Berkeley, CA, across the street from the GTU Library. See photos athttp://www.cdsp.edu/conference.php

Tuition and Registration Information:

GTU Students and GTU Special Students may enroll in the course, BSSP 2060, for 1.5 credits. Please register through the GTU Registrar. Any fees should be paid directly to the GTU business office.

Non-GTU Students may enroll by completing the application form available at here (PDF, 106 KB), and sending it together with a check for $250 made out to SVARA to:
Graduate Theological Union
Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies, Attn. Pat
2400 Ridge Road
Berkeley, CA 94709

Checks for full tuition must be received no later than January 12th to reserve a space in the class. Enrollment is limited, so register early. Generous financial aid is available. Contact SVARA at www.svara.org or e-mail [email protected].

Withdrawal: Non-GTU students who wish to withdraw from the course will receive a full tuition refund if we are notified of the withdrawal by January 12th. No tuition refunds will be made after January 12.

Housing: For information about single rooms, available either at Easton Hall or nearby, at special conference rates, contact Pat at CJS: [email protected], 510-649-2482.

*Rabbi Benay Lappe, Executive Director and Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1997, and holds three additional advanced degrees, in teaching and rabbinics. An innovator in combining Jewish text study and queer theory, Rabbi Lappe founded the Gay & Lesbian Lehrhaus Judaica in New York and the Queer Jewish Think Tank in Los Angeles, both of which continue to thrive. Rabbi Lappe currently serves as Professor of Talmud at the Hebrew Seminary of the Deaf, in Chicago, Visiting Professor of Talmud at the Richard S. Dinner Center for Jewish Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, in Berkeley, Resident Rabbinic Scholar at the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living, in Chicago, and is an Associate at CLAL—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.

This program is supported, in part, by a generous grant from the Koret Foundation and other anonymous donors.